Project Box Hauler: ATS Turbo Upgrade

August 30th, 2010

By: Kevin Wilson

Photos: Kevin Wilson

EZ 7.3L Turbo Upgrade
Improve Performance and Reduce EGTs with ATS’ Aurora Turbocharger Kit

OK, you’ve done nearly everything economically possible to your 7.3L Super Duty or Excursion. You’ve upgraded the intake and exhaust, added a programmer, and possibly even upsized the injectors. Sure the truck runs better, but you’ve noticed that the EGTs are starting to climb into the danger zone at wide-open throttle or when towing a heavy trailer up a grade. The missing element in your power recipe is more air. While the stock Garrett turbo functions well on a stock truck, it can’t keep up with the added heat that more fuel creates.

When it comes to picking an upgraded turbo for your truck, where do you start? Usually word of mouth has been part of the typical selection pathway, but there has to be a more scientific way to get the best bang for your turbo buck. Mostly, that requires serious knowledge of turbo mapping, and then trying to figure out which turbo will fit your needs. And then there’s the issue of how to get your selection in the truck in an efficient manner without a lot of custom plumbing work. Your best bet is to choose a complete kit that’s been engineering to fit your truck and will give you what you want, more power and reduced EGTs without breaking the bank with a bunch of custom fabrication to make it work.

One of the nicest and most complete bolt-on turbo upgrade kits for the 7.3L on the market today is a fairly new one from the folks at ATS in Aurora, Colorado. Since ATS stands for Advance Turbo Systems, you would expect none the less from folks at ATS. Their latest Aurora Turbo System for the 7.3L Power Stroke was years in the making, which is why the kit is such a complete bolt-on system that delivers on so many levels.

Available for the 1999 1/2-’03 Power Strokes, the kit is offered with ATS Aurora 3000, 4000, 5000 or even 6000 turbo configurations. The most popular choice is the Aurora 3000 which supports power levels from 350-500 rear-wheel horsepower and dramatically reduces EGT with a 30-percent increase in airflow over stock. With a wide compressor map, the turbo not only controls the extreme EGTs from added fuel, it also provides quicker throttle response, improved midrange and top end power, according to ATS.

1) The ATS Aurora Turbo System kit for the 7.3L Power Stroke comes complete with everything needed for a bolt on installation. While all these components look intimidating at first, the kit is well engineered and everything comes together nicely.

Using state-of-the-art CAD cam design, the folks at ATS came up with a trick turbo pedestal that is designed to work with clockwise rotation turbos. The switch over from the stock counter-clockwise setup allows for a larger turbo selection as the pedestal can be used with any T3 or T4 flange configuration. Another plus to the kit is that ATS replaces the donut-style seal factory up pipes and replaces then with the upgraded bellows-style units that use a stamped steel gasket to eliminate leaks and provide the most drive pressure to the turbo as possible.

The kit also uses a newly designed intake manifold to accommodate the clockwise rotation turbo. The turbo also features a larger inlet than stock, with a built-in inducer ring that eliminates turbo flutter or compressor surge. The ported inlet provides a alternative path for the airflow to go so it doesn’t damage the turbo. Speaking of the turbo, ATS claims its Aurora 3000 has a better bearing cartridge system than the stock turbo and features a high-temp coating.

We enlisted the air of our old friends at Strictly Diesel in Scottsdale, Arizona, to bolt on ATS’ new Aurora Turbo System on Project Box Hauler, our 2001, high-mile dually we have brought back to life. The upgraded turbo was the missing part of the power equation, since the truck was outfitted with 50hp DDP injectors and EGTs were on the rise during towing.

The truck also smoked quite a bit, and Strictly Diesel owner Nate Brekken said the best fix for both problems was a turbo upgrade. With 200,000 miles on the stock turbo, and visibly worn turbo blades, installing the new ATS system was a no brainer, especially since the stock turbo could barely muster 16 pounds of boost.

2) Here’s our guinea pig for the ATS turbo upgrade, Project Box Hauler. With 70 hp DDP injectors and the stock turbo, which had seen better days with 200,000-plus miles on it, EGTs were getting close to the hot zone so an upgraded turbo was the answer.

The installation took the greater part of the day, but according to Nate, since the kit was so well designed and thought out, the install took less time than he had planned. We had the old turbo off and new setup on in less than eight hours. One of the hardest parts of the install was trimming the new 4-inch downpipe the kit comes with and mating it to our 4-inch Hushpower exhaust system. The ATS kit does come with a coupler to mate the pipes, but some cutting and fitting is required to keep the larger down-pipe off the body.

If you have a 7.3L Power Stroke, especially if it has a few miles on it or the EGTs are climbing higher than is safe, check out the new Aurora Turbo System for the 7.3L. It offers plenty of flexibility for street driven trucks all the way up to high-horsepower competition rigs, is easy to install, and best of all, works great at lowering EGTs and adding plenty of power.

Driving Impressions
With the new ATS Aurora Turbo System install on Project Box Hauler, complete with the Aurora 3000 turbo, it was time for a test drive. We also hooked up a Ford diagnostic scan tool to get real time data.

What was obvious from the get go was the truck produced a lot less smoke, about 2/3 less than it did before the install, and had a ton of newfound throttle response. Building rpms with the six-speed manual was too easy, requiring a lot of fast shifting to keep up with the power band. Power was very linear with improvements all the way from the bottom to the top. According to the Auto Meter boost gauge, the new turbo setup produced 25 pounds of boost at wide-open throttle, much better than the 16 the stock turbo barely produced.
Probably what impressed us the most was the smile on Nate’s face as he drove the Power Stroke. As a life-long Power Stroke master mechanic, he had nothing but praise for the new ATS kit, from the fit and finish, to the easy of installation, and of course, the end results.

As we wrap up Project Box Hauler, the big dually will be headed to the dyno to see just what our power combination produces. Best of all, there’s now electronic tuner on the truck, all the fuel and boost is added mechanically for improved reliability.



Strictly Diesel

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